Summer has flown by and suddenly it’s time to get ready for the school year again. The transition back into the school routine is one that can often be hard for both students and caregivers. Adjusting to a structured routine again, making friends and dealing with studying stress can all put a strain on your mental health. Maintain a positive outlook and take on the school year with confidence with these resources to help guide you!
10 Questions to Ask Your Child Before School Begins
Use this list of back-to-school conversation starters so you and your child can reflect on the summer and get excited about the upcoming school year.
Teacher Checklists for Your Student
With help from our On Our Sleeves teacher friends and our experts, we’ve created these worksheets to help you be a voice for your child with their teacher this school year. Take the “A Little Bit About Me” worksheet to your teacher so they can get to know your child – and help the year go smoothly.
On Our Sleeves Back-to-School Checklist
Changing schedules. Supply lists. Forms to fill out. New teachers to meet. Heading back to school can be exciting, yet stressful.
We’re here to help you get organized and reduce your feelings of anxiety and stress. Our On Our Sleeves back-to-school checklist to make sure you and your child start the year off right.
Catch Those Z’s
A good night’s sleep impacts everything: feelings, stress levels, how you feel physically, performance at school, sports and other after-school activities and more. Here’s how to make sure your child is getting enough z’s.
- Develop a regular sleep schedule. Your child should go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day.
- Maintain a consistent bedtime routine.
- Set up a soothing sleep environment. Make sure your child’s bedroom is comfortable, dark, cool, and quiet. A nightlight is fine; a television is not.
- Set limits, such as what time lights must be turned off and how many bedtime stories you will read.
- Turn off televisions, computers, and radios.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Contact your child’s doctor. Speak to your child’s physician if your child has difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, snores, experiences unusual awakenings, or has sleep problems that are causing disruption during the day.
Dealing with bullying can make the school year especially hard on children. Learn how to respond to bullying and how you can help others being bullied.
Reduce School Stress
Stress can be good or bad. But either form it comes in can take a toll on us – and our children. What are some ways our children can reduce their stress levels?
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Move! Exercise helps keep stress at bay.
- Relax with hobbies. Make times for the things they love.
- Don’t overschedule—allow your children to have time for themselves.
- Explore a new place – restaurant, museum, etc.
- Teach your kids to ask for help when they feel overwhelmed.
- Learn how to deal with stress by practicing good coping skills.
- Try a minute of deep breathing, do Tai Chi, take a nature walk, play with your pet, or try journal writing as a stress reducer.
- Also, remember to smile and see the humor in life. Research shows that laughter can boost your immune system, ease pain, relax your body and reduce stress.
- Quiet your mind and try mindfulness! Relaxation exercises can improve your state of mind and outlook on life. In fact, research shows that meditation may help you feel calm and enhance the effects of other stress reducers like therapy etc.
Take the Stress Out of Tests
Tests can add a lot of stress! But here’s some tips to calm those nerves and have your child perform their best:
- Avoid nerves before a test by making getting plenty of sleep the night before.
- Think positive thoughts! These can rapidly improve you scores. So set aside the negative thoughts, and change them into positive ones. For example: instead of thinking “I will fail”, change it the thought to, “I will do my best.”
- Avoid test taking nervousness by planning ahead and being prepared. Ask the teacher for a study guide, study with friends, and make sure to review material in a timely manner.
- Avoid cramming right before the test. Break down material into sections or chapters. Try focusing on one section per study session until all needed material is covered.
- Don't go to the exam with an empty stomach. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress. Avoid stressful foods with high sugar content and processed foods like: pop, potato chips, or candy.
- Adding peppermint to your tea or diet can help you feel more awake and aware to do your best on the test. Try a mint while studying and one right before the test to help your brain associate the material you studied to be recalled for the test.
- Focus on addressing each question individually. As you take the test, if you don't know an answer, don't obsess over it. Instead, answer the best way you can or skip over the question and come back to it after you've answered other questions.
- If you're so nervous that you blank out, you might need a mini-break. Wiggle your fingers and toes, take four or five deep breaths, or picture yourself on in a calm place.
Reduce Homework Hassle and Stress
Have you ever had the nightly battle over homework? Here’s six tips to take the hassle out of homework:
- Create a quiet space. Let your child choose a quiet place to do their homework. Homework time should be technology-free, meaning no cell phones or screens. If you have multiple school-aged children, separating them can also help keep distractions to a minimum.
- Make a routine. Creating a simple routine can help your child stay organized and finish their homework.
- Lead by example. Be a model of hard work and persistence by making a routine for yourself, too.
Praise rather than reward. Do not bribe your child to do homework. This method only guarantees short-term results and will fail to teach the importance of learning. Instead, praise your child for the behavior you want to encourage. Tell them how proud you are when they are proactive, organized and hard working:
“Look how responsible you are, getting your study table organized and ready to go 15 minutes early!”
“You followed the directions so well. I’m proud of you for taking your time and checking your work.”
"All of your letters are right between the lines. I bet your teacher won't have any trouble reading this."
Make it your child’s responsibility. As a parent, it’s your job to provide the system and tools your child needs to complete their homework. It’s your child’s responsibility, however, to use them. If you find yourself arguing about homework on a regular basis, it may be time to step back and let your child take ownership of his or her work. Providing guidance and encouragement is important, but don’t prevent your child from feeling the real life consequences of bad choices.
Provide guidance, not answers. Homework is supposed to be challenging at times. If your child says “I can’t do it,” respond by saying, “Act like you can.” Tell your child to take a deep breath, collect their thoughts and find the confidence to figure it out on their own. Your goal should be to help them help themselves. If they continue to struggle, you can help by asking questions such as:
“What do you understand?”
“What do you think the answer might be?”
“How can you find out?”
Responsible Social Media Usage
Back to school is a good time to have a conversation with kids about responsible social media use. Share these tips with your kids:
- Review Before You Post: Regardless of the purpose of the content or who they are trying to reach, ask them to consider whether the post could offend someone. What may be funny or entertaining to one person, may be hurtful to someone else.
- Think Before You Reshare: Teach kids where they can find trusted resources and not to share from accounts that may spread incorrect or hurtful information.
- Consider Privacy: It is important for kids to know that once something is shared on the Internet, they cannot undo it. That means they lose all rights to their own privacy and they forfeit the rights of other people tagged in their posts or featured in their photos or videos.
- Be an Advocate: If children see something offensive online, encourage them to take action. Teens can use tools provided by social media channels, while younger children should be instructed to talk to a trusted adult who can report the content. Simply ignoring the content is not a safe alternative and should be discouraged.
More Back-to-School Resources
Mental Health Checklist
The On Our Sleeves back-to-school checklist makes sure you and your child start the year off right.
Elementary School Teacher Checklist
Use these questions to tell your child's elementary school teachers a little bit more about your child.